Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Irony in the Succession Crisis

Posted by BrianJ on December 16, 2009

The teacher on Sunday took us through a list of potential successors of Joseph Smith, some of whom were long-shots and their campaigns didn’t last long*. At a conference in Nauvoo, held about 6 weeks after Smith’s assassination, two of the main candidates, Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young, presented their arguments. God sided with one of them—using a clever touch of irony.

Two candidates, two very different arguments:

Rigdon: Joseph is still prophet, but Church needs a “guardian” in his absence; Rigdon is obvious choice because, as a member of the First Presidency, he was already (in a sense) a substitute for Joseph**.

Young: Joseph cannot be replaced, but the Church is run by the Priesthood and not by a man; the Quorum of the 12 Apostles hold the keys of the Priesthood and Young, as president of the 12, is leader of the Church; i.e., the Church is led by the priesthood, the priesthood is led by the 12, and the 12 are led by Young.

So, what would be the most appropriate way for God to manifest that Rigdon was indeed a stand-in for Smith? Oh-oh, I know: when Rigdon speaks, have some sort of “mantle of Joseph” fall upon him—you know, make him look or talk like Joseph. But of course, this isn’t what happened: reportedly it was Young who miraculously seemed like Joseph. The sign that would have been most fitting for Rigdon’s candidacy was instead bestowed upon the man making essentially the opposite argument!

I hadn’t noticed that before and thought it was pretty cool, and hope you do too.


* Based on my limited understanding. I may be way off….

** Rigdon also claimed to have received revelation stating that he should be Guardian.

3 Responses to “Irony in the Succession Crisis”

  1. BrianJ said

    In a later post I’ll discuss exactly why this stood out to me as “pretty cool.”

  2. Robert C. said

    I hadn’t noticed this bit of irony before either—nice!

  3. Jacob B. said

    Mike Quinn’s Dialgue Article on the succession crisis is excellent for detailing the entire episode. I remember that one reason for the initial confusion concerning who should lead the church was that Joseph had given a blessing (blessings?) to his son Joseph, saying that he would succeed him as President. Emma would later be adamant about this. The really interesting thing though, was that many years later Brigham Young would say that Joseph III really was supposed to eventually succeed his father as as apostle and church president, even saying (if I remember correctly) that should Joseph III change his mind about coming west to Utah and join the Brighamites he would immediately be inserted into his rightful place with the 12 (and possibly even replace Brigham as president, I’m hazy on that point). But he lost his place when he assumed leadership of the RLDS and rejected the Utah church.

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